Kate Lister, "A Curious History of Sex" (Unbound, 2020)

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This is not a comprehensive study of every sexual quirk, kink and ritual across all cultures throughout time, as that would entail writing an encyclopaedia. Rather, this is a drop in the ocean, a paddle in the shallow end of sex history, but I hope you will get pleasantly wet nonetheless. The act of sex has not changed since people first worked out what went where, but the ways in which society dictates how sex is culturally understood and performed have varied significantly through the ages. Humans are the only creatures that stigmatise particular sexual practices, and sex remains a deeply divisive issue around the world. Attitudes will change and grow - hopefully for the better - but sex will never be free of stigma or shame unless we acknowledge where it has come from.

Drawing upon extensive research from Dr Kate Lister's Whores of Yore website and written with her distinctive humour and wit, A Curious History of Sex (Unbound, 2020) covers topics ranging from twentieth- century testicle thefts to Victorian doctors massaging the pelvises of their female patients, from smutty bread innuendos dating back to AD 79, to the new and controversial sex doll brothels. It is peppered with surprising and informative historical slang and illustrated by eye-opening, toe- curling and hilarious images. In this fascinating book, Lister deftly debunks myths and stereotypes and gives unusual sexual practices an historical framework, as she provides valuable context for issues facing people today, including gender, sexual shame, beauty and language.

Rachel Stuart is a sex work researcher whose primary interest is the lived experiences of sex workers.

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